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Fifteen years ago, I was attending the first day of a coaching certification program when the instructor made a seemingly odd request: 


“I want you all to take out a piece of paper and draw a tree.”


A look of shared confusion went around the room. What does drawing a tree have to do with coaching? 


As to be expected in a room full of coaches, a slew of clarifying questions quickly followed: 


“What kind of tree should we draw?” 


“How big should it be?” 


“Is there a particular season we’re aiming for?”


“Portrait or landscape?”


“Up to you,” was the instructor’s sole response. 


So we all got to work and drew our trees.


Once everyone was finished, the instructor asked us to hold our drawings up so that he could see them. 


“Those are some pretty good looking trees folks, but they’re all missing something,” our instructor commented. 


We looked around at one another, curious as to what he was talking about.


“The roots. No one drew the roots,” he said.


Why didn’t we draw the roots? Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t see them when looking at a tree. They’re hidden by soil and easily forgotten amongst the branches and leaves commanding our attention.


Yet ironically, the roots are what give a tree life. They’re an extensive network of age and experience that enable everything – from trunk to branches to leaves, flowers and even animals – to survive and thrive. There is no healthy environment without firmly established roots.


Similarly, in the context of leadership, it’s easy to focus only on what we can see, whether it be analytics, deliverables, project development, or some other quantifiable skill.


It’s what we can’t see that actually forms the foundation of our “tree” (or performance) when it comes to our capacity for leadership. It’s the degree of trust we build with others, the amount of respect people feel for our character, the sense of confidence we bring to a team that needs a steady hand and long term vision, to name a few.


At Elite High Performance, we specialize in  “root care.” Whether it’s your personal roots, or the roots of the organizations you lead, our seasoned team of coaches will help you discover your greatest strengths and address challenges that will help you succeed long-term. Check out our programs at and get ready to grow.


Remember, don’t forget your roots.

-Coach MJ

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